― 231 ―

Mrs. McSweeney's Surprise Party

“It's a beautiful day,” remarked Mrs. Tacitus, as she entered the dining-room, and noticed that three of Mrs. McSweeney's Austrian chairs had been re-caned.

“It is indade a foine day,” answered Mrs. McSweeney. “It is weather loike this that makes one fale glad to be aloive. It minds me of the toime whin I was a gurrul, chasin' the pigs out of the potato field on me father's farrum at Ballyragin. Shure, thim was happy days, whin I had no social jooties to worry me, no twins and no shneerin', shquintin' neighbours a-castin' reflections on me from their balkinnies! Whin I think of thim days I am remoinded of the poet who said: -

“‘I wish, I wish, but all in vain,
I wish I was a maid again.
But a maid again I'll never be,
Till pumpkin grows on apple tree.’

“But wait till I tell you all about me sur-

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proise party. Little did I think I'd ever live to see the day whin me friends would all assimble at me humble dwellin' in the evenin' and give me a shpontaneous surproise party. Thruly does the poet say that it is the unexpected that happens, and that at the toime whin we are not lookin' for it.

“About a fortnight ago Mrs. Jackson came to see me one day, and she says, ‘Mrs. McSweeney, says she, ‘can ye kape a sacret?’

“‘Of course I can,’ says I. ‘Did ye ever know a woman that couldn't?’

“‘Well, I don't know that I did,’ she says. ‘I know I wouldn't revale a sacret if I died, except to me most intimate friends.’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘And phwat's the sacret ye have?’

“‘You won't tell it?’ she says.

“‘No,’ says I.

“‘Well, then, we're goin' to give ye a surproise party.’

“‘And phwat's that?’ says I.

“‘Why, a lot of yer friends are goin' to come round some night and bring a lot of things to ate and dhrink, and we're goin' to have great toimes.’

“‘And whin is it to be?’ says I.

“‘On Thursday noight, about eight o'clock,’ she says.

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“She had no sooner gone than in came Mrs. Regan - and she tould me the sacret. And then I heard it from Mrs. Delaney, and Mrs. Smith, and siveral others, and by Thursday noight I'd heard it from about fourteen of 'em, and they aiche made me promise not to say a wurrud about it. So whin Thursday noight came I had me dhrawin'-room all noice and toidy, and some fresh flowers in the vases, and afther Mrs. Jackson had done me hair, and I had put on me new white muslin, wid the green sash and pink fishoo, I tuk me sate on the sofy and a book, and lookin' fur all the wurruld as if I expected nobody. I waited to be surproised. I didn't have long to wait, for about eight o'clock I heard some whisperin' and laughin' outside, and a ring came to me bell. Pat had gone out, and so I opened the door, and they all walked in.

“‘We've come to have a party,’ says Mrs. Jackson.

“‘Well!’ says I, ‘I was never more surproised in me loife!’

“‘I'm so glad,’ said Mrs. Jackson. ‘I thought you would be.’

“‘And so did I,’ said Mrs. Regan.

“‘And so did we,’ added Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Smith.

“They set out the pervisions in the doinin'-

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room, and we found that Mrs. Jackson had brought some biscuits, Mrs. Regan some bananas, Mrs. Delaney some biscuits, Mrs. Smith some bananas, Miss Delaney some bananas and her young man, and I thought I'd have doid with lafture whin we found that those that had not brought bananas had brought biscuits, and divil a thing had they got amongst sixteen of 'em but bananas and biscuits, and an odd young man or two. However, I tould thim not to moind, as I happened to have a little thing or two in the house. So thin they began to enjoy thimselves, and they took the couch and aisy chairs on to the verandah to make more room, and put all the other things in a corner, so as to have a dance, and Miss Delaney had her music wid her, and played and sang, ‘I Would I Were a Bird.’ Her young man sang ‘Will of the Wisp,’ and he had such a big voice that there wasn't room enough for it in me dhrawin'-room, and ould Delaney and Con Regan wint outside, and whin he came to the part where he says, ‘Mark their fright' I could hear the glasses in the doinin'-room jingle again. Thin they tuk the carpet up and put it in the hall, and had a dance; and thin we had supper, and ould Delaney proposed me health in bumpers wid tears in his eyes, and thin Con Regan proposed Pat's health, and

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Miss Delaney's young man proposed the ‘Chairman,’ Mr. Delaney, and Mr. Delaney responded and proposed the ‘Ladies.’ Mrs. Smith's eldest son was asked to respond to the toast of the ‘Ladies,’ and he did so in the following way: -

“‘Ladies and gintlemen!’ says he. ‘I am goin' to respond for the ladies, and propose the twins - God bless 'em - I mane both the ladies and the twins. What should we do widout 'em, gentlemen? I mane the ladies. They cook for us, and darn for us, and sing to us, and play to us, and sometimes they play the divil wid us. Whin I see them, sittin' like two cherubs on the wash-house roof, a-shmokin' brown paper and peltin' banana skins at the Chinamen - I mane the twins - I think how proud Mrs. McSweeney must be of 'em. And I hope we may all be as fortunate as Mrs. McSweeney - I mane the ladies - and I hope that they may grow up to become great men - I mane the twins - and that we may all live long and die happy, for, as the song says, “They are the joy of our lives" - I mane the ladies.’

“He sat down amid thremendous applause, and wavin' of handherchiefs, and ould Delaney said he was proud of him (for he was courtin' Delaney's youngest daughter.) And thin Con Regan started to sing ‘He's a Jolly Good Fellow,’ whin I thought me heart was in me mouth, for I heard

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such a clather in the hall that it sounded loike as if a load of bricks had been tipped on the floor. I ran out to see phwat was the mather, and there I see Pat lyin' on his face wid the hall-shtand on top of him.

“It sames he had come in and thripped over the dhrawin'-room carpet that was folded up in the hall, and in fallin' had knocked over the hall-shtand, that had made a lump on the back of his head as big as a wather-melon. He was spacheless wid insensibility, and when Con Regan and Delaney carried him into the dhrawin'-room, and tuk his collar off, and he never opened his eyes to say a wurrud, I thought it would be widder's weeds I'd be wantin, and me only afther buyin' a new hat wid pink flowers the day before. They bathed his face wid wather, and rubbed his hands, and it was all no good, until Delaney said: -

“‘Do you think he cud take a dhrop of whiskey?’

“‘He couldn't take whiskey the way he is,’ said Con Regan.

“‘You're a liar!’ said Pat, as he opened his eyes.

“Well, we got him to bed afther a toime, although we had a job to perswade him to move, as he laid wid his head on Mrs. Regan's lap, and she rubbin' his hands, while Con poured the whiskey

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into him. When he was safe in bed, they all bid me goodnight, and it was three o'clock in the mornin' before I was able to shut the front door, through the couch gettin' shtuck in the enthrance, and me wid no one to give me a lift.

“Pat's head was achin' a bit the next mornin'. He said it was the knock he got. I think the whiskey had somethin' to do wid it. I'd thought he'd be in a great timper, but he wasn't. He said he'd take a knock loike it again every noight, if he could lay his head in Mrs. Regan's lap and have the whiskey poured into him. It's all over now, but it was a grand surproise party. Mrs. Moloney must have heard the music and the singin' and the lafture, but I don't think she knows of Pat's bump. For three days afther the party, she sat on her balkinny wid her head rapped up, purtindin' to have a cold in the head, and lookin' about as happy as a pig wid the yellow janders. 'Tis surproisin' the way some paple invy other paple's good fortune. And must you go so soon, shure?”

“Yes dear,” replied Mrs. Tacitus.

She kissed Mrs. McSweeney, and, in passing, rubbed her finger on the chiffonnier to see whether it had any dust on it.